Chemotherapy to do lists: preparation and planning checklists

Posted by Sara Liyanage on 08 October 2017

A hand with a pen making notes on sheets of paper with lists

Going into your first chemotherapy appointment can be daunting, of course. It’s easy to forget what you might need, and impossible to anticipate what you might need. We’ve put these lists together from our experience as patients to help make your chemotherapy treatment as smooth as possible. You are not going through this alone.

Your pre-chemotherapy shopping list:

  • Snacks for home and to take to hospital
  • Drinks that taste nice given your taste changes, such as herbal tea bags, squash and juice
  • Hard boiled sweets or mints
  • Antibacterial hand gels – small and large sizes – for bags, the car and around the house
  • Magazines and books
  • Crosswords, puzzle book or mindfulness colouring book and pencils
  • Hand cream
  • Lip balm
  • Gentle toothpaste and mouth wash (either for sensitive teeth or an organic brand)
  • Soft toothbrush (possibly a child brush)
  • Prescription medications
  • Tissues
  • Gentle shampoo and conditioner
  • Eye drops for dry eyes
  • Gentle shower gel and moisturizer
  • Decent thermometer (shop around for this as you often find reductions in supermarkets)
  • Travel sickness wrist bands to help with any nausea
  • Over the counter medication which has been approved by your oncologist:
    • Indigestion/heartburn remedies
    • Paracetamol
    • Throat sweets
    • Throat spray
  • Soft head caps and scarves
  • PICC line covers (if you are having a PICC line) and make sure you have some day-wear ones and some waterproof ones for showers
  • EMLA numbing cream if you have a port

What to get ready for chemotherapy recovery days:

  • Warm socks or slippers
  • Water bottle
  • Notebook and pen
  • iPad/tablet/laptop with downloaded films and earphones
  • Warm scarf/shawl
  • Blankets for the sofa
  • Distractions for the rough days (TV box sets, films, books etc)
  • A basket of things to carry from bed to sofa, such as tissues, lip balm, hand cream, phone charger and medications

What to organise at home:

  • Do a big grocery shop before each chemotherapy appointment so that you don’t need to go shopping for a little while after chemo.
  • Make a dentist appointment and optician appointment for before chemo starts as some chemo drugs can cause problems.
  • Request that your local chemist delivers your prescription medication.
  • Sort out your freezer to make room for frozen meals and then make some meals to freeze.
  • Apply for your free prescription certificate.
  • Plan childcare and school run assistance for chemotherapy days and a few days after each appointment.
  • Organise a “Family Command Centre” at home so that everyone can see what everyone is doing, where everyone needs to be and when.
  • Save important hospital contact numbers in your phone and keep a written note of them somewhere around the house.
  • Plan how you will remember which medication to take when. There are phone Apps that can help with this, or you can set alarms on your phone.
  • Have a notebook and pen (or one of the cancer phone Apps) to record your daily side effects in order to report back to your oncologist and/or chemo nurses.
  • Make plans for the possibility of losing your hair. Will you have your head shaved and if so, will you do it yourself or go to a hairdresser? Get some soft caps or scarves. Ask your Breast Care Nurse for a wig referral (some NHS hospitals provide wigs for free, others will give a certain amount towards one).
  • Make some frozen fruit juice ice lollies and freeze some fresh pineapple which can all help with mouth sores and unpleasant tastes in the mouth.
  • Make sure you have your chemo card (given to you by the hospital to inform anyone that you are undergoing chemo) on you at all times when you leave the house.
  • Organise someone to take you and bring you home from your chemotherapy appointments.
  • Organise COVID and flu jabs for family members and possibly yourself (check with your oncologist).
  • Pack your chemotherapy bag (see our separate list of what to pack).
  • Pack an emergency hospital bag so that you have everything ready if you need to rush to A&E with any of the more serious side effects, or if you have to go in overnight between cycles. Pack nightwear, wash bag, a book or something to do while waiting, a set of clean underwear and clothes, antibacterial hand gel and antibacterial wipes and a phone charger.
  • Consider appointing a “point person” to help coordinate offers of help from friends and family. They can set up a meal rota, a childcare rota, a dog walking rota. They could also help to update all your friends and family at different points throughout treatment if this feels too much for you to do.
  • You can set up WhatsApp groups to send updates to throughout treatment. This means you don’t have to update everyone individually.

Further information

For our downloadable and printable chemotherapy packing lists and checklists visit the checklist homepage.

Future Dreams hold a range of support groups, classes, workshops and events to help you and your carers during your breast cancer diagnosis. These are held both online and in person at the London-based Future Dreams House. To see what’s on offer and to book your place, see here.

To return to the homepage of our Information Hub, click here where you can access helpful information, practical advice, personal stories and more.

Reviewed September 2022

The information and content provided on this page has been written from a patient’s perspective then reviewed by a breast care nurse and it is intended for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice. Please contact your medical team for advice on anything covered in this article and/or in relation to your personal situation. The links and/or recommendations in this article to third-party resources are for your information and we take no responsibility for the content contained in those third-party resources. Any product recommendations made in this article are not product endorsements and unless otherwise stated, they are made without any affiliation to the brand of that product. We ask you to note that there may be other similar products available.


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